Minister Van Engelshoven has to move as quickly as possible to ensure that the number of university researchers and support personnel are expanded by 20 percent. “There is a desperate need.”
This call sent out to the Minister by WOinActie has also been signed by the Algemene Onderwijsbond, FNV trade union and the governance councils of eight Dutch universities.
“There are strong signals that researchers and support personnel are becoming completely exhausted”, they wrote. Due to the blended learning and online teaching that’s been used since March 2020, work pressure, which was high to start with, has increased further. Not only lecturers, but schedulers and secretarial staff are also reaching the end of their tether. Moreover, people are absent due to illness, which means that those remaining are even busier.
The 20 million euros the Minister made available earlier for coronavirus jobs in higher education are not enough, the letter says. According to spokesperson Willemien Sanders, lecturer at Utrecht University, much more is needed. “We just won’t get there with a few extra student assistants and support staff.”
The number of academic, coordinating and secretarial appointments has to be increased by 20 percent. If the Minister were to make that money available, it would have a quick effect, Sanders anticipates.
But won’t it cost a lot of time to hire so many new colleagues and get them familiar with the system? “I think a lot can be done if there is a great need. People could start working tomorrow, and the paper work could also be ready next week. There are lots of people who want to work in academia, so they are not hard to find.”
What’s more, the crisis is not going away soon, the writers of the letter fear. The extra money could be used to help keep teaching on track now and in the coming academic year.